When you hear the name of a dance, like the Mash Potato, the Charleston or the Shag, the name itself brings to mind an era, way of life and, of course, style of music.

The goal of the Beckley Area Shag Club, said vice president and social committee chairperson Karen Callahan, is to “preserve the state dance of the Carolinas, the Carolina Shag, the music and the lifestyle.”

For Callahan, Beckley Area Shag Club has become more than just a social club over the last 20 years, “it’s a brotherhood.”

The Carolina Shag is a spin-off of the Lindy Hop, described Callahan, “it started on the beaches in the ’50s, and it is a refined dance similar to the Jitterbug, but movements are from the waist down instead of all over the body.”

Shag music is typically between 120-135 beats per minute, and Beckley Shaggers enjoy rhythm and blues at their socials, she said.

Beckley Area Shag Club may hold the title of the first shag club in West Virginia, but Callahan points out that there are now five area clubs including Bluefield, Charleston, mid-Ohio Valley area in Parkersburg and Almost Heaven in Clarksburg. Mostly in the south eastern United States, she said, there are 101 associated member clubs with over 1,500 members.

And while most members are baby boomers, she added, youngsters are beginning to catch on with around 1,000 junior shaggers ages 5-21 “carrying the torch onward.”

Mel Hancock, a member with his wife and dance instructor, Tammy, explains that through the club, he has developed close and meaningful relationships.

“I have shared good time and bad times with members of the club. We have gone through deaths, marriages and births like any kind of close relationships,” he said.

Anyone who is interested in learning to shag or practicing their skills can participate in Beckley Area Shag Club socials or lessons and coming with a partner is not necessary.

“The beauty of the dance and the people is that everyone dances with everyone else and it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to ask a man to dance and vice versa,” Callahan added.

If you are new to the shag and want to learn, the club offers dance classes on Monday nights at Morgan’s in Quality Inn on Harper Road, Beckley. Classes will resume after the holiday season and are $5 per person. Basic steps are taught from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and intermediate step from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Callahan also invites members of the community to attend the club’s weekly social on Saturday evenings from 8 to 10 p.m. in Club 3D at Raleigh Mall in Beckley. There is no cover charge and shag music is played exclusively, she said.

For more information, a schedule of events and the Beckley Area Shag Club newsletter, visit them online at www.beckleyshagclub. com.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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